Bubba leads, reveals secret to Masters success

By Jason SobelApril 11, 2014, 10:55 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Ben Hogan had a secret.

The two-time Masters champion whose name endures today on the eponymous bridge that stretches across Rae’s Creek on Augusta National’s 12th hole, forever kept his secret to success classified. To this day, it’s believed that it involved cupping his left wrist at the top of the swing. Weakening his left hand grip. Maybe starting his backswing with his right knee.

He spoke about it later in life, but old secrets are difficult to reveal, especially those which are kept hidden for so many years.

Bubba Watson has a secret, too.

That’s what he said after the opening round of this week’s Masters, following a 3-under 69. In a world where “Hoganesque” serves as a popular colloquialism, this was Watson’s version.

His secret was so secretive that even his wife, Angie, wasn’t sure what it entailed.

“A secret? Really?” she asked. “I don’t know.”

It appeared, like Hogan, he was prepared to keep it airtight. Wouldn’t divulge a word. Not even a hint.

Until 24 hours later, when he posted a second-round 68, took a three-stroke lead and let the world in on his private revelation.

“It's not science here,” he said. “It's try to hit the greens, and if you're hitting the greens that means you're obviously hitting your tee shots well. So that's all I'm trying to do is just hit the greens.”

Bubba Watson, you’re no Ben Hogan.

And that wasn’t much of a secret, either.

Yes, as it turns out, Watson’s big secret really wasn’t much of a secret at all. He’s trying to hit greens in regulation.


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Shh, don’t tell anyone. The other players will never figure it out.

Secret or not, it’s working for him. Through two rounds, Bubba has hit 28 of 36 greens, a 77.78 percent clip that’s good enough for second place in the field so far.

“If you're hitting greens, obviously you're not going to be in the trees that many times - unless you're me, I guess,” said the man who famously won this tournament two years ago with a historic shot from the trees in a playoff. “So, yeah, by hitting greens, you're hitting your tee shots well and you're hitting the par-3s or short par-4, No. 4, really well, and so everything is going right in your game. 

“I missed two greens yesterday, missed a few more today with the conditions a little tougher, but my tee shots are pretty good. There hasn't been too many real bad tee shots.”

Not at all. In fact, he ranks third in driving distance at 299.3 yards and is among the leaders in driving accuracy with 20 of 28 fairways.

Just don’t say anything. These are all secrets, of course.

Not as secretive is that Watson suffered from a bout of overexposure when he returned as the defending champion last year. Following that playoff victory over Louis Oosthuizen, he made the cut, but finished in a share of 50th place, part of a season-long struggle that saw him claim just one top-10 after February.

“You've got to think about where I've come from, my mom having two jobs to pay for my golf, my dad working in construction,” he explained. “And when you think about that and where I am in my career and where I am in my family, my young family, you're thinking about how great this was.

“It's an accomplishment for a guy named Bubba, with my mom, my upbringing.  My year, my career was complete after that win.

“So yeah, obviously I was going to hang over. Never been drunk before, but a hangover from the green jacket. It's going to take me some time. You know, I do everything my way. I learned the game my way. I figured it out my way. So it just takes me a little bit longer with the mental focus and drive to get back to where I am today. This year started off a little bit better than last year.”

For Watson, who already owns a victory at the Northern Trust Open and two other runner-up finishes this year, that may actually be the secret. It has less to do with simply hitting greens this week and more to do with playing what he calls Bubba Golf.

Halfway through this edition of the Masters, this secret remains safe with him. If he can keep it going for two more rounds, it could translate into another victory among the towering pines.

And do you know whom he’d be tied with after winning a second title here? That’s right – a guy named Ben Hogan.

Just don’t tell anyone. It’s a secret.

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials phoned Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial. 

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.